Time and Again
“Theo,” Buck turned to the quad hanging from
Twiki’s neck. “Tell Dr. Huer’s contact that he can have the
Lagrithians in about three hours, but until then, please don’t make
contact with them. As soon as Hawk and I are clear, close the shield.”
“That should not be a problem, Buck,” Theo
informed him. “Travel has
already been severely restricted to and from Earth,” Theo said.
I owe you one,” Buck said, as he waved to Njobo and walked out
of his room. Hawk followed.
“Actually it’s more like owing me about two
hundred and forty seven,” Theo said to Buck’s retreating back. Twiki beeped in surprise.
At the launch bay, Hawk meticulously went
through his pre-flight routine, while Buck found a helmet.
“Are you going to take a weapon, Buck?” Hawk
asked as he climbed in.
“No, Hawk, I am counting on surprise being my
Hawk’s communicator beeped.
When he opened the link, a somewhat under the weather Dr. Huer
greeted them. Buck leaned
forward so the Directorate leader could see him.
“I can’t say that I totally agree with your
tactics, Buck, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t expect it,”
Huer said. “And I suspect
that if I was feeling better, I would be right up there along side
Buck smiled grimly.
“Sorry you got this, too, Doc.
And thanks for the support.
You know this is something I have to do.”
“Yes, and apparently your timing is going to
work out well. Delegate
Krinshgoran told me a Galactic Council ship is on its way.
I have arranged with him to have you signal when you are ready
for the ship to come through the stargate and arrest the Lagrithians.”
“What kind of signal, Doc?
We most likely won’t be near Hawk’s ship,” he said somewhat
impatiently. Now that
he had decided on this action, Buck was very eager to get it under way.
“An aide is bringing one for you or Hawk to
“As long as it doesn’t tip them off, I’m okay with it,”
“It’s a special device.
With a similar instrument, the delegate was able to communicate
with the council without arousing the Lagrithian’s suspicions,” Huer
As soon as we get the device, we’re out of here.”
“Good luck, Buck.
And be careful.”
Within minutes, Dr. Huer’s aide had delivered
the tiny transmitter and Hawk took it.
“I will be responsible for this, Buck.
I suspect you will be very preoccupied.”
Now let’s head for our rendezvous.”
As they streaked toward space, Hawk asked,
“What if they do not request us to land on their ship?”
“Hawk, if I was still a betting man, I’d lay
a wager down on that very question and I’d clean up.
They have only been hearing rumors.
Foreenizor is probably aching to get his hands on some real
information,” Buck replied, his voice confidant.
“We are outside the defensive shield now,”
Hawk informed his friend. As
if on cue, a voice came over the communicator warning ships away from
Earth. And then a signal came from the Lagrithian ship.
“Remind me to never play a game of chance with you, my
friend,” Hawk added as he reached for the communicator.
He heard Buck’s soft laughter in the back seat.
Shortly, they were on the main hangar bay, the
one where Buck had begun his fateful journey over a week before.
He took a deep breath and hoped he could pull off this surprise
without resorting to any violence.
Hawk undogged the hatch and stood up to greet the Lagrithians.
As Buck expected, he saw Foreenizor striding into the room, his
fingers moving in what Buck could only suppose was anticipation.
Keeping his head lowered, he climbed out after Hawk.
“We welcome you to our ship,” Foreenizor
said. He gazed at Buck,
puzzled. “You are a
Defense Directorate starfighter pilot.”
Buck lowered his voice slightly. “Does my status preclude me wanting to get away from a sure
death? I had no
intention of staying down there. Paid
the birdman to smuggle me out. Near
thing, too. Sickness
everywhere. Only aliens are
immune. Killed thousands
already.” Buck saw
Foreenizor’s long, slender fingers quiver and he knew he had the
Lagrithian hooked. He reached up to pull off his helmet, but hesitated.
Foreenizor wasn’t quite close enough.
“But just as long as I’m not down there,” Buck growled.
“I won’t get that death virus.”
Foreenizor’s face showed quick, almost instant
pleasure before he hid his emotions.
Buck had to work at clamping down his own emotions, furious at
the reaction the alien was showing to the possibility of misery to so
Hawk stood back, watching carefully.
He noted who was armed and who was not.
Foreenizor studied Buck carefully as though trying to figure out
something, but as yet there was no recognition on the Lagrithian’s
face. Rocking lightly on
the balls of his feet, Hawk continued to watch carefully.
“You do realize that since there seems to be a
plague situation on Earth and since you came from Earth, you will have
to stay here under quarantine until it is determined you do not have
this virus,” Foreenizor said. “For
the protection of other terrans in the galaxy.”
“Too late, Freenizor.
I was the first,” Buck said coldly, jerking off his helmet and
dropping it to the deck. Before
anyone could move or say anything, Buck grabbed the doctor by the front
of his jacket and shoved him back against a wall.
Gasps of astonishment accompanied the realization of who he was.
Foreenizor’s nut-brown countenance paled and his eyes widened.
His mouth opened and closed, but no sound came out.
“Yeah, you remember me, right Foreenizor?
It’s me, Buck Rogers, the one you tried to use to destroy the
Earth.” Buck heard
movement behind him. “Cover
“Already doing that, my friend,” the birdman
Buck never took his eyes from the Lagrithian’s.
“What were you hoping to accomplish, Foreenizor?
What did you want so badly that you were willing to submit
millions of men, women and children to a hideously painful death?”
A laser pistol fired and Buck heard a body hit
the floor. He only hoped
the stricken individual wasn’t Hawk.
As though reading his mind, Hawk said, “I am
fine, Buck. Someone was
trying to test my skills with a pistol.”
He heard a nearby door slide open and then shut.
“Hawk, they’re sending reinforcements!” he shouted.
Hawk’s pistol fired again and Buck heard the crackling of burnt
circuits. He turned
his full attention back to Foreenizor.
“What was it, Foreenizor?
What was so bloody important that you had to send me through hell
to get it?”
The Lagrithian mumbled something. “All right,” he said.
“All right. I’ll
Buck relinquished his hold slightly and
Foreenizor exploded into surprising action, pushing Buck back and
slapping at him. While
momentarily surprised, Buck recovered quickly, his right leg shooting
out in a kick that connected with his victim’s stomach, and left him
choking and gasping.
“Buck, watch out.
To your right!” Hawk’s
laser flashed several more times, while Buck pivoted in time to meet the
attack of a Lagrithian guardsman. This
man had more martial arts knowledge than Foreenizor and was more
formidable. Buck jumped
back from what would have been a roundhouse punch had it connected, and
then he threw a punch of his own, followed by a kick to the
Lagrithian’s midsection. Another guardsman tackled him, hitting him in the face and
throwing Buck to the deck, stunning him momentarily. His attacker sat on his chest, making it hard for Buck to
breathe. The guardsman drew
himself up to throw another punch and was hit solidly with a laser stun
blast. Buck even felt the
effects of that one.
Looking around, he saw no one else seemingly
willing to attack. Most of
the people left standing were watching in stunned silence, including
Mreesa and Breearth. Hawk
held several guardsmen at bay.
Buck saw Foreenizor trying to slink away during
the commotion, but his escape was blocked by the two floratat designers.
Still a bit shaky from the near laser blast and the brief fight,
Buck got to his feet. He
saw the Lagrithian leader trying to take something from Mreesa and
realized in horror that it was a small laser pistol. Resolve gave him the impetus to quickly cross the ten
feet separating him from the alien and jerk him away from the women.
Buck spun Foreenizor around and, with a backhanded slap, knocked
him to the deck.
“Buck!” Mreesa said.
He glanced up and saw the floratat designer tossing him her laser
pistol. “You might need
it,” she said.
He nodded his thanks and turned back to
Foreenizor, kneeling beside him and resting the end of the laser’s
barrel against the doctor’s forehead.
Buck’s other hand rested on the Lagrithian’s throat.
His fingers curled around Foreenizor’s neck.
He squeezed slightly, wanting to choke the life out of the
Lagrithian doctor, but he restrained himself.
Buck only tightened his grip enough to let the alien feel his
anger and resolve. “What Foreenizor?
Give me the justification for Wilma’s suffering, for mine?”
Foreenizor pawed at his hand, but it was as though all of
Buck’s energy had flowed to his fingers.
The grip was steel hard and the alien could not break the
Earthman’s hold. “What
was it?” Buck hissed.
“No, no!” Foreenizor choked out. “It was the directive. Earth was perfect.”
Buck relinquished his hold on the doctor’s
throat only enough to let Foreenizor talk more easily.
The laser pistol never wavered.
“What directive? And
Earth was perfect for what?”
“Perfect water composition.
And gases,” Foreenizor said hoarsely.
Buck cried out in his rage.
His fingers tightened slightly before he regained some semblance
of composure. “Water!”
he exclaimed, his voice rising in his indignation.
“Who made you Earth’s judge, jury and executioner?”
With a cold deadly voice, he added, “Who the hell made you God
to decide whether humans are more or less important than a pool of
water?” Buck felt
the light touch of a gloved hand on his shoulder and almost swung the
pistol around until he realized who it was.
Hawk’s voice was low and soothing, with the
effect of pulling him away from his fiery rage.
“Buck, the federation ship has just come through the stargate
and will be docking alongside this ship in ten minutes.”
Slowly, Buck released his hold on Foreenizor’s
throat and stood up. His
hands were trembling, whether from the effects of his activities or from
his anger, he didn’t know. With
the pistol still trained on the Lagrithian, Buck said in a voice loud
enough for everyone in the room to hear, “Foreenizor, you don’t know
much about humans or you would know that the human spirit can’t be
killed by a virus. And know
also that humans don’t roll over and play dead when they come up
against something overwhelming. If
they did, we’d have been gone five hundred years ago.”
Foreenizor continued to lie on the ground,
staring at Buck, almost as though the terran was a ghost.
“How?” he finally said, “how did you survive?”
My friends didn’t give up on me.”
“But the virus.
You were in a wilderness area.”
Buck laughed mirthlessly.
“You picked the wrong boy to practice medicine on.
You developed the contagion for present day humans.
You developed it pretty much from Wilma’s blood, didn’t you?
Fifty-fifty chance and you blew it, Doc. I was born over five hundred years ago, before the Great
Holocaust. Terrans have
changed a tiny bit since then.” Seeing
Foreenizor’s stricken look, he continued.
“Oh, don’t get me wrong, I was sick, sick enough to want to
die, but I didn’t. I
survived and returned to New Chicago in time for the doctors to develop
The Lagrithian began to cry, his tears splashing
to the deck.
“You lost, Foreenizor.
You lost big time.” Buck
heard a shuttle coming to rest behind him, but he continued to hold the
pistol on the Lagrithian. There
was still a tiny part of him that wanted his finger to tighten on the
firing button, but he only continued to watch the alien doctor grovel at
his feet. The temptation
and the anger slowly drained away.
Buck only felt exhaustion . . . and an overwhelming desire to go
“Captain Buck Rogers?” a voice asked behind
Buck turned toward the voice and saw a dark,
green-skinned Pinzorian. “Yes,
I’m Captain Rogers.”
“We will take charge of the Lagrithian
prisoners now. We
appreciate what you, Dr. Huer and Hawk have done to uncover this,” the
Buck nodded, handing him the pistol.
It had suddenly become very heavy.
“I think only Dr. Foreenizor and a few of his cohorts were in
on this plot. Most of the
Lagrithians, such as these floratat designers, had no idea what was
going on,” Buck said, indicating Breearth and Mreesa. “Oh, and the good doctor, here, mentioned a
directive. I think you may
want to check out the heads of the Lagrithian government.
This directive seems to have come from them.”
“I am sure the Council will do that.”
Buck turned and began to walk toward Hawk’s ship.
“Buck,” Breearth called out.
Buck stopped and turned toward the floratat
designer. She walked up to
him, Mreesa right behind her.
“Thank you,” Breearth said.
“What for?” Buck asked.
“For believing that we wouldn’t be a part of
such a hideous plot.”
He saw the woman’s sad face and said, “I saw
you and I saw your reactions. And
I remembered the time we spent together.
And besides, Foreezinor apparently didn’t talk to you because
if he did, he’d have known about my background.
No, I didn’t think you could be part of this.”
“I am glad you didn’t die, Buck Rogers.”
“So am I,” Buck answered, laughing.
And this time it was a laugh of joy and of closure.
He was genuinely happy.
“Good-bye, Buck,” she said, leaning toward
him, her hands outstretched. Understanding
the custom, Buck held his hands out and intertwined his fingers with
Breearth’s. The gesture
of respect was repeated with Mreesa.
“Come back when this is all settled, Breearth, Mreesa,” Buck said, slowly pulling away. He turned and walked toward Hawk’s starfighter, retrieving his helmet on the way.
“Let’s go home, Hawk,”